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on December 1, 2007
Chris Bohjalian is one author who both allows his readers to feel while encouraging them to think. In this case, homelessness, mental illness; our social and individual responses to both are thoroughly dissected within the context of a compelling and intense story.
If you have read his previous works, you may be caught off guard at times, but stick with it. You know this author maintains control of the narrative.
If you have not read anything else by him, you may be tempted to put it aside at times. DO NOT FLIP TO THE END OF THIS BOOK. Rather, perservere, it will be well worth your time.
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VINE VOICEon May 4, 2008
I had not read Chris Bohjalian's work, and picked up an audio download of The Double Bind (Vintage Contemporaries). That may NOT have been the perfect choice since it's so much harder to flip back, and this book demanded it. However, the reading by Susan Denaker was effective and the recording well-produced.

This book is difficult to review without spilling secrets, an important consideration in a story where clues are laid down all the way through and the big surprise is at the end. The main character, Laurel, had been viciously attacked while biking on a Vermont country road and her emotional recovery from that awful experience is by no means complete. She is a social worker at an agency for the homeless in Burlington, Vermont, and becomes obsessed with the photographs left behind by a deceased client. Her pursuit of the homeless photographer's story takes her back and forth from Vermont to her childhood home on Long Island.

The story is woven through with the fictional characters from Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, discussed as though they had really existed; the author refers to this slice of 1920s society as "hollow, sullen and morally insolvent." The reader must hold this thread along with the strands of Laurel's stories, present and past, and the photographer's history. Together these strands weave a seemingly complex knot, which disappears like Houdini's Vanishing Knot with the final revelations of the book.

I love a psychologically complex story with a surprise ending. When it's well done, the reader may reconsider the plot elements and leave the book with a new appreciation for the author's skill. In The Double Bind Bohjalian laid his smoke screen down too well, obscuring the "truth" of the book. Multi-layering is a good thing in fiction - in this case fiction posing as fiction posing as reality - but readers may wish that Bohjalian had fit the layers together more carefully.

I would love to give the book more than three stars because of the interesting theme and smooth prose style; but measured against what he could have given us, this book falls short in the plotting details. I'll certainly read more of this author's work.

Linda Bulger, 2008
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on September 17, 2015
Loved the book, because it totally took me by surprise! I was chilled at the ending, and plan to re read.
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on July 31, 2014
The book is fabulous. I was engaged from the first page. I kept having unsettled feelings about the main character but could never put my finger on why. Cannot say enough to recommend it.
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on July 16, 2007
This story is very well told, and I applaud the author's ingenuity in finding a way to reveal everything to the reader. I don't agree that one needs to have read about Gatsby. There is enough information included to make for a compelling book. It's a very satisfying yet disturbing story with a twist that will definitely make you want to at least re-read certain parts. Some violence that's difficult to read but clearly an integral part of the story.
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on March 27, 2007
With such an intriguing plot, this should have been a real page-turner. Unfortunately, the flat narrative and two-dimensional characters made this novel tedious to slog through.

A good novelist allows the reader to enter into the characters' lives and learn what makes them tick. But instead of allowing personalities to unfold, the author just blurts out whatever he he thinks we should know (ie: David was "not merely cerebral and careful: He was aloof and detached") without actually taking the time to let the characters bloom.

Bohjalian introduces characters for no other reason but to allow them to have flashbacks showing what a kind and good person Laurel is. Others that should have been given the briefest of mentions are assigned complete life stories.

The story is quite sloppy at times and a few plot points make no sense until you get to the end.

I had heard that Chris Bohjalian was a very good novelist, but I felt this book could have easily been written by Nicholas Sparks, another novelist who has some lovely story ideas but cannot execute them very well. Due to the some of the other reviews posted here, I will give Bohjalian another try and perhaps read Midwives.

I can't help but think how exciting this book could have been had the plot been given to a more skilled storyteller. In the hands of Scott Turow, Mary Stewart or even Steven King, a story like this would soar.
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on October 24, 2007
Psychological thrillers aren't really my cup of tea, but I read this upon recommendation of a friend. Can't say that it won me over to the psychological thriller fan club, but I will admit it was an interesting and fun read. It is very readable and in places is a real page turner, but it's not great literature even though it is based on "The Great Gatsby."

I would recommend finding an Internet summary of "Gatsby" if it has been a while since you have read it (or if you somehow missed this in your past). I don't see how the book can be at all satisfying without having a knowledge of the Gatsby story.

I consider this a well-written "beach read" -- get it from the library; it's definitely not one that you would reread because once you know the ending, you've got the story.
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on September 8, 2007
I finished The Double Bind recently and was absolutely blown away by it. It's one of the best books I have read in years. In fact I am going to get my own copy and reread it who knows how many times. Wonderful plot, not overly preachy. It puts a face on the issue of homelessness and the tragedies of it that aren't apparent to the everyday person. If you haven't read the Great Gatsby before, you will want to after this. I'm going to re-read it. The ending of The Double Bind is a shocker, and one that really hit home with me personally. A book well worth reading.
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on May 21, 2014
The story was compelling and drew me in. I couldn't wait to get back to the book after I had put it down. The ending blew me away. I think I am still reeling from it. Well worth the read.
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VINE VOICEon April 21, 2007
one of the greats of 2007. This book is hard to come by. You literally want to ingest it all in one sitting. It just kept getting better and better, deeper and deeper. After the ending, I want to go re-read it and I am sure I will get something that I missed the first time.

Made me think a lot about the homeless, and how some have gone from a wonderful life, to living on the streets. How did they get there? Why? Focused quite a bit on mental health too. It will be a book I will not forget for a long time. Added it to my library. Add it to yours' too!
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